‘The Last Dance’ aired episodes 7 and 8 of the 10-part documentary series looking at Michael Jordan’s legacy and the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty in the 90s. We’ll be recapping and giving some takeaways for both episodes. Let’s dissect what happened in Episode 7 first.
‘The Last Dance’ Episode 7 recap, takeaways
The episode starts off by setting up the scene for the final title — ya know, The Last Dance. The Bulls are in the playoffs and are taking on the New Jersey Nets in the first round in 1998. New Jersey gives MJ and the Bulls a scare but they are able to pull out a win. Will this be a long series? Is this the end of the dynasty? So much suspense.
We rewind — like we normally do in this series — back to when Jordan’s father, James, was tragically murdered at the border of North and South Carolina. Jordan and his father were incredibly close and his passing really weighed on Michael. We get some interviews about how Jordan had been contemplating retirement for a while now, back in 1992 before The Dream Team. Nobody really thought MJ would ever retire this early. He shocked the world with the announcement before the 1993-94 season, opting to follow his childhood dream of playing baseball professionally. You all know how that all went.
Jordan was a savage at practice.
We’re getting into Jordan’s reputation as a hard ass in practice. He wanted to win. At all costs. He just said that. Picking on Scotty Burrell and his teammates was more of a motivating tool. He was trying to light a fire under players. It was something coaches did. Not a player. But I guess when you’re the best, you can do pretty much whatever you want. It also seems like his teammates were OK with it. As long as you’re winning, who cares.
The type of fear factor they’re talking about isn’t surprising. Think of when you had a job growing up and you just feared the hell out of your boss or supervisor no matter what. Because they had all the control — just like MJ.
Now we’re back in time again and Scottie Pippen is trying to lead the Bulls to a title without MJ in 1993-94. The Bulls are going against the Knicks in the second round and are down 2-0 in Game 3. Scottie opts to sit out the final play for Chicago with a chance to win. Toni Kukoc drains a game-winner and the Bulls make it 2-1. It was a defining moment for Kukoc and a not-so-great one for Pippen.
Oh yeah, then everybody forgot about that because Pippen posterized Patrick Ewing in the next game. The Bulls would go on to lose the series with the Knicks losing in the Finals to the Houston Rockets.
We fast forward back to 98 with the Bull sweeping the Nets to advance to play the Charlotte Hornets.
‘The Last Dance’ Episode 8 recap
We start off the episode with the Bulls losing to B.J. Armstrong and the Hornets in Game 2 of their series. Welp, now Jordan has to go kill Armstrong ... The Bulls would go on to demolish the Hornets next game and eventually win the series. Armstrong was the motivating factor, the little kick in the ass the Bulls needed to get right.
Now, we go back to when MJ is retired and there’s rumblings that he’s ready to come back to basketball. The MLB was on strike and Jordan wasn’t playing baseball, so why not?
Jordan is back on March 18, 1995.
It was a long time ago, but I vaguely remember Jordan’s return as a kid. Jordan vs. Reggie Miller. Those were always my favorite Bulls games to watch in the 90s. It was a rocky return for Michael out the gate. It took a little bit for him to get his legs. That game-winner over the Hawks was the moment he was officially back. Now he’s going to MSG.
Jordan drops 55 and the Bulls beat Ewing and the Knicks at the Garden. Problem was, when the Bulls reached the playoffs, they ran into a brick wall of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway on the Orlando Magic. Chicago loses and Jordan’s return was ruined, temporarily.
Sidebar: Don’t you miss when every basketball game was close? Almost every one of these playoff games the Bulls won during the dynasty, they were all generally close games, right? Am I crazy? Basketball was so competitive in the 90s despite one man dominating for pretty much the entire time.
So Jordan switched back to 23 mid-series against the Magic to try and get the Bulls back in the series. You can’t really blame Jordan for the loss to the Magic. He wasn’t able to get into game shape after playing baseball for some long. Honestly, if we’ve learned anything about Jordan and the Bulls, it’s that they usually respond after being kicked to the ground. This only sparked the second three-peat.
I wish NBA superstars did this more often in the offseason. Everybody meets up and goes up against each other for a little bit in the Summer. Seeing this footage is the most raw version of basketball imaginable. It was really the only way Jordan was going to get back into game shape: play against the best in the world again.
The Kerr fight was really important for this Bulls team in the second 3-peat. Kerr made so many huge shots and the relationship and trust between Kerr and MJ was crucial. It’s sort of that rite of passage for Kerr and he responded and now he’s not only one of the most winningest basketball players ever, but also one of the best coaches in the world right now.
The Bulls get revenge on the Magic in the 1996 playoffs. It was inevitable, Jordan is Thanos. You think people would learn not to cross MJ. George Karl did not. He blows Jordan off at dinner and then MJ made sure Carl and the SuperSonics were dispatched quickly.
Sure, give credit to Gary Payton for stealing a game from Jordan. Making it a 3-2 series was exactly what MJ needed to close things out. GP may have come closer than anyone to really, truly beating the final form of Jordan. Peak Jordan never lost. Payton made it interesting.
Father’s Day 1996. Game 6 vs. the Sonics. Jordan can clinch the first title after the passing of his father. His dad was with him in that game. There was no way the Bulls were losing that game. Jordan’s fourth championship in six years.